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Planning for the State’s Water Resources

February 6, 2014 By: David Bauman 

Calling water “Connecticut’s greatest natural resource,” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy told a group of state water experts Monday at a conference organized by UConn that the time has come for the state to develop and implement a strategic water plan.

Citing an as yet unfulfilled 1967 statute mandating the creation of such a plan, Malloy deadpanned, “I think we’ve waited long enough to get started.

“Smart water policy is smart economic and environmental policy,” he said, in remarks to about 150 state policymakers, regulators, environmental protection advocates, water industry professionals, and academics attending the day-long “Connecticut Strategic Water Resources Planning Conference” at the University of Connecticut’s School of Law in Hartford.

Ecologist Gene Likens, founder of the Cary Institute and special advisor on environmental affairs to UConn President Susan Herbst, agreed.

“We have an historic opportunity to help guide and foster implementation of a strategic water resources plan for the state,” said Likens, who, at the encouragement of Herbst, invited state and university water experts to examine state-of-the-art water resource plans in other states and identify opportunities and obstacles to developing a similar plan for Connecticut.

“UConn is committed to environmental stewardship – and that does not stop at the borders of our campuses,” said Likens. He recalled how recent negotiations to supplement the University’s water supply – triggered by the development envisioned by Next Generation UConn, the plan to support major expansions across three campuses – brought into sharp focus the state’s lack of a comprehensive water plan.

It was then, Likens said, that he and Thomas Callahan, UConn’s associate vice president for infrastructure planning and strategic project management, began discussions with faculty, environmental advocates, and state regulators about the benefits of hosting a conference. Together they agreed that with prudent management of Connecticut’s water resources so critical to the entire state, it was imperative that UConn offer its expertise to help in strategic water planning for the state.

Despite a consensus that it’s time for Connecticut to act to meet its long-term water management needs, differing policy priorities and a lack of resources and clear accountability, which deterred earlier efforts to create and implement a strategic water plan for the state, still remain.

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